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Gov. Deval Patrick on Wednesday defended his offer to provide secure facilities to shelter unaccompanied children crossing the nation's southern border, saying there remained considerable misunderstanding about the plan.
Patrick's comments to reporters came one day after a meeting in which several town officials and residents in Bourne raised strong objection to children being housed at the Camp Edwards military base on Cape Cod. The governor also has offered Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee as a possible secure facility.
"What has been proposed is space in a secure facility for a short period of time while they are processed under our law," said Patrick, who called some of the remarks made by critics of the state's offer "coarse and unhelpful."
The children, he said, would not be brought into the neighborhoods near the bases or attend local public schools, but would be processed "in a setting that is secure and safe and humane."
State Rep. Brad Jones, the House Republican leader, has invited local, state and federal officials, along with representatives of law enforcement, to a meeting Thursday at the Statehouse to discuss Massachusetts' possible involvement in housing immigrant detainees.
The House on Wednesday referred to a legislative committee a non-binding resolution that called for the state to reject any request from the Obama administration to take in the unaccompanied children from Central America.
"This resolution is to question Massachusetts' role in an immigration crisis ... and politely say `no thank you,"' said Ryan Fattman, R-Sutton, on the House floor.
Fattman said he applauded Patrick for his compassion but rejected assurances that the children would remain in the state for only a short period.
The Democratic governor, who said the state had not yet received a formal request for housing from the federal government, said he expected the facilities would operate for only about four months and the average stay for children would be 30-45 days while they are processed under U.S. law.